The karsts of Sulawesi Tenggara

The karsts of Sulawesi Tenggara cover an area of around more than 5,000 km2 in the south-east of the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. They include the Matarombeo massif, a completely unexplored, vegetation-covered mineral fortress, and the Sombori-Labengki archipelago, rich in rocky islets and coral reefs, and populated by fishing villages.

Scientific expedition on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia
Unexplored and difficult to access, unstable terrain, endemic animals: the Matarombeo massif on the island of Sulawesi is the archetype par excellence of a “Lost World”.

The Matarombeo massif

The Matarombeo karst covers an area of around 1,200 km2, roughly the size of the island of Martinique, with its eponymous peak reaching an altitude of around 1,500 metres. It is bordered to the north and south by two main rivers that flow from west to east along the entire length of the massif. These waterways offer the possibility of approaching the entire length of the massif and creating natural transects.

Completely unexplored, the Matarombeo massif is one of the few karsts in Southeast Asia to remain as “islands within the island” of Sulawesi, an untouched sanctuary in the heart of the forest.

In addition, together with the adjacent massifs of Tangkelemboke and Mekongga, the karsts of southeast Sulawesi still shelters one of the largest expanses of primary forests on the island, one of the last bastions facing palm oil, pepper and cocoa plantations, cement factories and nickel mines.

As karst massifs are known to be the richest areas on the planet in terms of biodiversity, the almost total lack of knowledge about the Matarombeo and surrounding rivers guarantees immense potential for discovery in terms of underground networks and species new to science.

The karsts of southeast Sulawesi among the islands of the Indonesian archipelago
The karsts of southeast Sulawesi among the islands of the Indonesian archipelago

Sombori-Labengki archipelago

The karstic complex of Sulawesi Tenggara juts out into the sea to the east at Sombori archipelago. Made up of a multitude of coves and rocky islets that are reminiscent of tourist sites in Southeast Asia, the beauty of the area and the richness of the underwater world have earned it the nickname “little Raja Ampat” , auguring future tourism development.

While the islands and coastline are dotted with a multitude of small villages that make their living mainly from artisanal fishing, the region has not been spared from plastic waste pollution and the unbridled exploitation of natural resources such as nickel.

Sombori-Labengki archipelago, Indonesia
Sombori-Labengki archipelago, another form of “lost paradise”, where tourism development is only a matter of time. Will it be a tool for preservation, or the scourge of its destruction?

Further information

Find out more about our first conservation activities and our long-term strategy for preserving the karsts of Sulawesi Tenggara: Préserver les karsts du Konawe – Helloasso[tp lang=”en” only] (French only)[/tp].

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English translation made possible thanks to the PerMondo project: Free translation of website and documents for non-profit organisations. A project managed by Mondo Agit. Translator: Cressida McDermott[/tp]